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Travis Co. residents fight Southwest water rate increase

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Residents in eastern Travis County are getting hit with another water rate increase.

Last year residents fought Southwest Water Company's 95. 9 percent water and wastewater rate increase. They won the battle when the company withdrew their rate increase application and had to refund residents. But now they are fighting a 13.2 percent water rate increase.

"This time last year we were looking at sediment in that water. We were looking a brownish not clear water," said Richard Franklin, an Austin's Colony resident in eastern Travis County who gets his water from Hornsby Bend Utility Company owned by Southwest Water.

He admits the water quality has improved. But says water bills in the neighborhood are still outrageously high averaging $150 with the new increase.

"We're going to have to go back to court again to ask them to justify why they're increasing the water rates astronomically again and every year it's a double digit increase in water rates it's just intangible for the people in this community," said Franklin.

By law, investor owned utility companies like Southwest Water, can raise rates and charge customers those rates without the states approval. It’s a loophole Senator Kirk Watson is trying to change.

"I think what we need is we need to have more oversight from our regulatory agencies and we need to level the playing field and we need to make sure that they are not in a situation where just year after year they're going to face escalating rates," said Watson.

A change residents hope to see in their pocket sooner rather than later.

"We're paying for it now and then turning around and getting a rebate well that's real money I need right now," said Franklin.

Southwest Water sent the following statement:

“The company has invested $70 million in the past five years on improvements to its water delivery system. We have been working closely with Sen. Watson's office to provide input as a new ratemaking process is developed, and we are looking forward to playing an active role in ratemaking reform in the upcoming legislative session.”

Sen. Watson hopes to introduce the issue to legislation this session. In the meantime, residents can protest their water rate increase to the state.

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